Blog

CAMPGROUND REVIEW- FORT DESOTO PARK- Home Sweet Home….Not So Much

Featured

When: October 18-20, 2019

Where: Fort Desoto Park, Pinellas County, Florida

Who: We organized this trip 7 months ahead of time. The we are Mike, Eris, the lowrider camping hound, and I on one site, Joe and Caren (who couldn’t come) on another, Annette and pups on another site and Cheri on another site and friends had an additional 4 sites.

Weather was supposed to be crappy, which we sort of figured even when were making reservations as we were camping with Joe. It always rains when Joe is camping. However, he outdid himself this time with a tropical storm. Because of the storm people canceled and there were a lot of empty sites.

Why check this place out, let me start and tell you why we will never come here again. Let’s start with the check-in: Fort Desoto is a Pinellas County Park, where I grew up, and am still a resident for a little longer, I went to plenty of parties here, my favorite beach of all time, I even camped here before. Location is conveniently located less than 10 miles from my sticks n’ bricks. I have been a Pinellas County resident for most of my life, went to school here, got married here, raised my children, etc., I am sure you get the point, it’s the county that is my home. As County residents we are able to make reservations 7 months ahead of time. That is the only benefit we receive, no discounts, no early checkin and no late checkouts. Just the ability to make the reservations one month earlier. When we were planning the trip 7 months earlier I made reservations for Annette (who is formally of Pinellas County, born and raised) using my address. At the same time Mike made reservations for us using our address. Now keep in mind we had a total of 8-9 campsites reserved by friends of Chery and Joe. The only one who didn’t live in Pinellas was Annette. Also, there was no where on the website that stated that only one reservation per address is allowed nor did their crappy website pick up on the fact that two reservations were made from the same address for the same weekend. I understand this rule- actually I don’t understand why my husband and I cannot reserve two sites as they aren’t giving us anything extra and we are paying for two sites and if that is a rule then it should be stated somewhere. Anyhow, we show up and they gave us grief and that was when we were checking in. At one point I was ready to say that’s fine give us our money back and we will leave now, leaving them with two more empty sites, as a lot of people were canceling due to the impending weather and they can try and fill it.

Secondly, there is no alcohol consumption allowed in the park. Not even on your site and they encourage people to tattle on others. There is fat fine for those who are caught with alcohol $118.00 ish per drink. I don’t really care that much if I want a drink I can always drink it inside my camper. However, when you are paying $40.00 per night for a campsite you should be able to sit at your picnic table while eating and have an adult beverage.

Thirdly, after weathering out a tropical storm we went ahead with our plans of a pot luck dinner at Chery’s site, which compared to most of ours was the driest. We carried all our food down there (love my wagon) and Joe drove down as he had an extra tables and grill. Shortly, after eating we were sitting around in a circle and chatting and the ranger came over and said only two vehicles allowed, all three were all on the site and not an inch of any of them were in the road. Joe said ok he would move his back down to his site, ranger asked which site, he told him and that the only reason it was there was to transport the tables and such, instead of the ranger saying that’s fine just make sure it is moved by the end of the night he made him move it. One would think that would make the ranger move on but no, he was nosy and was trying to see if any of us had any alcohol. Keep in mind we aren’t young people average age was probably 45-50, we weren’t loud we were sitting around the, oh wait I was going to say fire pit, but that would be an extra fee, so just in a circle, which leads me to my fourth complaint the costs for lack services…

It was $40 ish dollars per night, not worth it to have to deal with the nasty, unwelcoming Park rangers, with their unbendable rules and to be nickeled to death. The only amenities they have are bathrooms with showers, picnic tables and grills on each site and dump.

Finally, my last complaint is the amount of pet sites. There are 236 sites only 78 are open to pets, leaving 158 sites for the pet less folks, hence the problem with getting a site. I don’t have as much of a problem with this, however, the pets are not allowed to even be walked beyond the pet area, again not very welcoming to say the least.

So reasons to go, the views, not so much in the campground as outside. There is a nice trail that will take you to the beach, which I may be partial are the best beaches. There is a fishing pier and a fort to explore. So biking, walking, fishing and exploring the the beach are the reasons. Oh and believe it or not it even has a dog beach.

I will keep my Ft. Desoto trips to day trips only.

That being said even with all the negatives it was still fun to camp with friends, we brought our propane fire pit, and made s’mores while standing under the awning in the rain, there was mud for the dogs to walk through, and had shared meals with others and made some new friends. However, the next trip I would suggest we hop over the Skyway and go to Little Manatee River State Park and rent as many sites as we want, where the rangers are pleasant and the hosts are as well.

Until next time, happy camping,

Hope

Whatrwewaiting4….

Featured

CAMPGROUND REVIEW-TORREYA STATE PARK

Mike, Eris, the lowrider camping hound, and I went to Torreya State Park in Bristol, FL on August 31, 2019 through September 4, 2019.

There are many reasons to check out this place, one of which is the hiking, and the views. We have been there before to backpack and if one went there blindfolded when the blindfold was removed one would swear that they were dumped in North Carolina not north Florida. When we came in 2003 it was very different then this year. In 2003 we did the Torreya Challenge hiking trail which it was very challenging and very beautiful.

This year however it was very different. Only about 3 miles of the trails are left now after the 2018 Hurricane Michael destroyed the area. The best way to describe it was that Mother Nature picked up all the trees and just dropped them. Reminded me of a game of pick up sticks. The trails are slowly being rebuilt but not sure if they will be restored in my lifetime. There were signs at the entrances of what was once a trailhead saying to stay off the trails as they were destroyed when 155 mile per hour winds came through the park. This might be a good time to mention that this park is not on the coast it is about 80ish miles away. Hard to imagine being that far away from the coast and being hit with a category 5 hurricane. The surrounding neighborhoods were nearly destroyed. Most houses had a new roof, needed a new roof or were abandoned. I felt horrible for the residents, as it seems like all the help that did come went to the wealthier areas such as the beaches and this area was forgotten about.

But back to the campground review. What thankfully did remain and had minimal damage was the Gregory House. It is a mansion built by Jason Gregory, who was a prominent plantation planter in 1849. It stood across the Apalachicola River from where it is currently. The river served as a “highway” during the Civil War. However, after the war Mr Gregory moved away and the house had seen hard times. One of the daughters did move back to the home, restored it and lived there until her death. When the state park was created in the 1930’s the Neal Lumber Company donated the home to the park as a gesture of support for the park. It was taken apart and moved across the river to the park for reconstruction on the bluff where it remains today. The CCC carefully put it back together and they even used the original wood pegs instead of nails. There are tours given daily and it is well worth the little fee of $2.00 per person.

While we were there every morning I hiked down and then back up to the Gregory House to see the magnificent views, which were plentiful.

The park is named after the rare Torreya tree, which can only be found in north Florida, California and China.

The campground is very different from most of Florida’s state parks. It too is on a bluff with a deck with an awesome overlook. The sites (1-15) themselves are small and do not offer much privacy as they almost touch the neighbors, but it was good and so nice to explore the area. There is also a yurt and a cabin which can be rented. There is a bathhouse which has toilets and showers as well as a shower house. We did do the few trails that were open, but it was sad to see the damage that remained from the hurricane.

We explored Apalachiola National Forest, which I highly recommend. By the looks of it the forest faired better than their northern neighbors during Michael.

We will return sometime as there is still much to see. Hopefully for all the residents and future visitors things will get rebuilt soon.

Featured

PHOTO HIKE-Brooker Creek Preserve -10/26/2019

My friend, Marci and I attended a photo hike at Brooker Creek Preserve. Our guides opened our eyes to look at the environment around us differently. We saw things we may have otherwise overlooked. I believe I can speak for both of us when I say we learned a lot about the park and about photographing nature.

Brooker Creek Preserve is located in Pinellas County and is owned by the County government and Southwest Florida Management District. It is 8700 acres and is the largest natural area in Pinellas County. Entrance to the preserve is open at 7:00 am consists primarily of forested wetlands and pine flat woods. Mike and I had hiked there previously on a couple of occasions however both of our hikes resembled swims more than hikes. This time what we hiked was dry but we were not able to go on all of the trails as there was a wildfire there not long ago so some of the trails were closed. So maybe next time. What we saw this time was pretty amazing.

Visitors can start their day at the Nature Center and get trail maps, hit the trails and be sure to return to the Nature Center to check out the exhibits and the gift shop. There are also guided hikes quite often. I highly suggest checking out the schedule. Leaving the Nature Center there are boardwalks and nature trails. While we were there, there was flowers in bloom and we saw some birds but next time we will try and get there as the gates are opening because that’s when the wildlife is there.

This park can be enjoyed by all ages. I highly recommend it for people with young children and for the old as well. So when in the area be sure to check it out.

Featured

CAMPGROUND REVIEW-Little Manatee River State Park

We went for a quick weekend down to Little River State Park in Wimama, Florida.

We arrived on Friday August 16, 2019 and left on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

The attendees were Mike, Nick Eris, Jodie and I on site 20 and Steve, Rosie, Jax and Mia on site 2.

It was nice and close to home and easy to get to. We had a ton of rain prior to our arrival so everything was flooded. The river was too flooded to kayak on so we will save that for next time and the trails were too flooded to be hiked upon so we will save that for another time as well. Even though we couldn’t go hiking or kayaking we still had a nice time.

The campground has some nice size sites but ours was small. Glad we didn’t have anyone else cuz we were pretty squished. The bathroom was under construction so they had the portable ones with a showers. They were neat and tidy.

We have been here plenty of times to do the 6.5 mile stacked loop on the north side of the park, which have been called muck and roots previously. We didn’t even attempt to go there since the trails on the campground side were flooded we could only assume the other side was worse. The campground side also has 15 miles of equestrian and multi purpose trail that was mostly under water. There is equestrian camping here as well.

Normally this is one of the most pristine blackwater rivers in southwest Florida but since it was so swollen it was hard to see. We have also paddled this many years ago and had a great time.

Even though we could not use all of the park we still had a great time. Camping with family and friends is always great. We will return as it is super close to home and easy to get there and maybe next time we will be able to participate in all the park has to offer.

Featured

FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGNS AND CAMPGROUND REVIEW-Silver Springs State Park

This is going to be a combination of Following the Brown Signs and a campground review as they are one in the same. Let’s start with the

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

The Who: Mike, Eris,the lowrider camping hound, Nick, Jodie and I went for a weekend of seeing the very first Florida attraction.

The Where: Silver Springs State Park, the campground entrance is located at 1425 NE 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida.

The When: July 19-21, 2019

The Lowdown: We headed up on Friday afternoon. Not too far from the house so we were able to make it before the park closed. Always a positive thing. After setting up we went to El Toro Mexican Restaurant. The food was authentic and fabulous, it is on Silver Springs Blvd in Ocala. After dinner we headed back to the campground and walked around what I like to call a cracker village. Took the pups for a walk and went to bed. After a nice sleep we started our day with another walk and then to Silver Springs (the attraction). I will go into more details of all there is to offer in the following the brown signs segment. Just know that 2 days is not enough time to see all there is to see.

The Campground: The campground has 59 campsites, that can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet, with 50/30 amp service. There are some with full hook up but all have electric and water. There are two sections each with 2 loops. There are many pull through sites. Which is what we opted for. When making reservations I wasn’t sure if we would make it before dark so for the ease of pulling in, possibly in the dark, I opted for the pull through. Not sorry at all. We had a great site in with our living area facing the woods. There are also 10 beautiful cabins for those who don’t want to camp. Our Verizon and Nick’s AT&T worked flawlessly.

The Reasons to Go: There is so many reasons to go, which I will get into more details in the following the brown signs, but there is paddling, hiking, a museum, a spring, a nearby fort and who wouldn’t want to see the first Florida attraction.

Let’s get to the Following the Brown Sign:

This has been a natural landmark since the 1870’s.

History: Florida’s oldest attraction with glass bottom boats which showcase the crystal clear springs and underwater life. It is also the gateway to the Ocala National Forest. In 1971 it was designated s National Natural Landmark which offers a wealth of cultural and historical significance. This is shown through the displays above and below the water. Native Americans lived there and there is tangible evidence of their existence above and below the water. There is a dug our canoe that can be seen at the bottom of the river (Silver River). The Spanish (deSoto) visited the area and it is thought that was the first European to experience the park. There are a vast collection of natural habitats.

In 1985 the state bought 5000 acres of undeveloped land. In 1987 they turned it over to the Department of Rec and Parks and created Silver River State Park.

The Silver River Museum was the only thing developed in 1987 when the State acquired the property. In 1999 they built the ranger station, then the cabins and campground.

In 1993 the state purchased the headwaters Silver Springs and it was controlled by the previous owners. In 2013 the Florida Park Service acquired management of the headsprings area and at that time the name changed for the entire park from Silver River State Park to Silver Springs State Park.

About the park: The Park is split in two parts. The campground area, which has the many hiking trails and the Silver River Museum and the cracker village (a collection of old homes, school, store, church, etc.) and the Springs side, which houses the actual attraction of the glass bottom boats, a little museum, restaurant, ice cream shop, canoe/kayak rental, gift shop. The park is open 365 days a year, 8 am to sundown. The museum is open to the public on weekends and state holidays, 10 am to 4 pm. To get into the museum it is the usual state park entrance fee which at Silver Springs is $8.00 per carload. There is a $2.00 per person fee to get into the museum. On the spring side of the park, parking is free and entrance fee is $2.00 per person. However, if you are staying in the campground the entrance fee is free. The glassbottom boat ride is $11.00 per person for 30 minute ride (which we feel is long enough) they do offer a 90 minute ride as well. There are walkways where the monkeys are seen. The monkeys are known to throw poop so I was glad we did not see any. Kayaks can be rented. Since we did not get to rent the kayaks I will save that for another time. There were tons of movies made here.

On Sunday we went to the museum and then we headed over to Fort King which is down the road a bit just to check it out. It was interesting but not too much to write about.

There is a ton of history in the area and a ton to learn about.

We did not get to do everything the park has to offer and will return. The winter would be a much better time to go. I can see why the park is a favorite of many.

Till next time… Hope

Featured

CAMPGROUND REVIEWS, FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGN AND ALL BECAUSE OF YOUTUBE

Campground Reviews:  This section will be short and sweet, because the campgrounds weren’t what this trip was about.  There were two, but it was mostly a place to lay down our heads and sleep.  So let’s get started shall we?

Mike and I  left Wednesday, June 26 after work and headed to Ellaville “RV PARK”, I use that term very loosely because it was about 8 pull through sites, with no amenities  right on US 90 with full hookups and made for the perfect place for us to pull in, plug in and hit the sack and get a good nights sleep at 11:00 p.m., when we arrived.  We would have stayed at a Walmart but June, nearly July in Florida is not exactly conducive to getting a good night sleep without ac.  Ellaville is a ghost town on US 90 about 4 miles from our property and right next to the Suwannee River State Park, which we highly recommend.  One might ask why we didn’t stay there, short answer is we just wanted to sleep with ac for the night so this fit the bill perfectly and was only $20, which we put in an envelope and placed it in the electric outlet when we left.  It was super easy to pull in, pull out.  After we woke up we had breakfast and hit the road.  But before leaving we heard a loud crash, I thought it was ice cracking and Mike thought it sounded like glass breaking.  I will tell more about what that was later.  When we were ready, we started our journey westward to our target destination, Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Alabama.

Rainbow Plantation is an Escapees RV Park.  This is the first one we stayed at.  Price was reasonable and was recommended as one the of the places to stay by Kyle and Olivia, best known  as Drivin’ & Vibin’, which was the reason to go to Alabama to begin with for their reveal of the Airstream Argosy, which is beautiful, more on that later as well. Back to the review of the campground.  Each site has full hookup, which was a first for us, well the night before we had full hookup but that didn’t count since we didn’t even unhook from the truck.  Our site, number 46, was in the middle of the trees.  There was a fabulous looking pool, which we did not use, a clubhouse with activities, which we did not attend,  because we weren’t there for the campground, we had other intentions.  The campsites did not have picnic table nor a fire ring, (not that we needed a fire anyways it was a) too, too, too hot, b) we weren’t staying at the campground except to eat and sleep and c) it was way too wet to even get a fire started). We did  set up our carpet, chairs, and table, opened the awning and headed to LuLu’s.  Next time, we will plan on bringing bikes and use the pool.  It was a nice stay and wish it was longer.  That’s pretty much it on the campground review, on to the Following the Brown Signs…..

We only got to follow two brown signs on this trip.  The first one was  Falling Water’s State Park.  It is known as one of Florida’s hidden treasures, with a 73 foot waterfall.  However, it needs to rain a lot for there to be any water actually falling, it was a trinkle.  We have been here before when the girls were young and we had the same result, no water falling at the waterfall.  Oh well, maybe next time. I was also able to get my Florida State Park passport stamped.   While there we checked out the campground.  The campground is located on one of the highest hills in Florida.  It is 324 feet above sea level.  We almost needed to get oxygen for the journey, just kidding.  The campground was just ok, with smallish sites and a weird layout and  there are many other’s I want to stay at before staying there but it was good to check it out.  The park itself is very pretty with steep hills, which is surprising in Florida. To get to the waterfalls there are boardwalks to get you down to it. It was too hot for us to explore too much so we got in the truck and headed out of the park, if we didn’t have a destination to get to we might have gone for a swim. Heading out of the park our engine brake came on, which we didn’t even know it had.  So that was interested and reassuring.  So west we headed. The other brown sign and I am not even sure it is a brown sign but we will call it that happens on Friday at the Gulf State Park in Alabama.  More of that to come.  Back to journey as we head west.

After a longish ride we finally made it to our destination, it was near 3 p.m. which was perfect as the office was closed until that time even though our paperwork was on the bulletin board awaiting our arrival.  We set up camp and headed to LuLu’s, where Kyle was playing (not only are Olivia and Kyle talented YouTube creators they can also sing and have a band).  Since we like live music and are fans of these super talented young people we did what was natural and headed to LuLu’s, which is also perfect because Mike being the parrothead that he is, and this is Jimmy Buffett’s sister’s place, and it also helps they have beer.  We arrived there near 5 and the place was packed, and if we wanted a table we would have had a 3 hour 45 minute wait, luckily the bar is first come first serve and we could also order food there.  Our seats were perfect and overlooked the stage.  After a few songs Mike went down and introduced himself to Kyle and told him we were part of the “Vibe Tribe” and were in town for the reveal.  During the break Kyle cme up and sat with us for a bit, which was totally awesome.

We headed back to the campground (oh by the way traffic sucks there just as much as it does in St. Pete/Clearwater), the wind was picking up and there were some serious thunderstorms in the distance, and all we could think of how we were stupid to leave the awning out on the camper, which we knew better but it was like 0% chance of rain. We couldn’t get back fast enough and were hoping our awning was ok.  Which thankfully it was.  The rain came down like buckets and the wind was crazy.  When we pulled up Mike hit the fob on the door, from the truck, (one of our newest additions to the camper-keyless entry, oh yeah) and we headed in, pulled the awning in, we sat up for a bit (cell service sucked) and hit the hay.  In the middle of the night, the rain and wind were super crazy, at one point  I thought we were  on the boat.  I thought for sure when we got up in the morning the table and chairs would be scattered across the campground.  I am guessing the trees offered some sort of protection as all was good in the morning and the stuff was mostly dry.  This is the time I will fill you in on the loud crash we heard back in Ellaville, we think it was ice melting in the ac.  When we got up, the compressor wasn’t working well if at all. We figure the ac froze up, without our ladder there was no way to tell for sure.  I cooked breakfast outside so not to heat up the place and we ate at our little table.  Before leaving to do some touristy things we turned the ac off.

Our first touristy thing to do that day was to go to Buc-ee’s.  What is Buc-ee’s you ask? It is a huge and when say huge I mean HUGE or SUPER HUGE gas station.  Yes it is a gas station on steroids, with over 100 gas pumps  but only for private cars, campers and such.  Not sure if any of them have the ability for 18 wheelers to come in but this location did not.  It has a huge store with beef jerky, pastries, and sandwiches.  They have clothes and of course touristy like gifts as well. After our trip to Buc-ee’s we headed to Fairhope, which took us to  Warehouse Donuts.  We got a couple little sandwiches, a donut (Mike’s choice) and a cinnamon bun (my choice) to go.  Warehouse Donuts is a nice place with amazing food besides just donuts.

After Warehouse we headed to the beach, which may or may not be considered a brown sign, we will call it one just the same.  Gulf State Park, Alabama, which was another suggested location to camp at.  However, in retrospect we are content where we stayed because it was closer to where we wanted and needed to be.  Gulf State Park is one of the 4 best state parks in Alabama that is listed in our National Geo’s State Park Guide.  Anyway, as the name implies it is on the Gulf of Mexico with 2.5 miles of white-sand beach, it has boardwalks that connect the very large campground (496 sites), 20 cabins and 11 cottages to the beach. However, if you are staying in the campground there are bike paths that can take you there as well.  The campground is on the other side of the road, so the boardwalks make it a safe journey if you are going by bike or walking.  After paying our little entrance fee ($2.00) into the park we headed to the Nature Center (which is free), what we found weird was we drove straight through the campground, some of the sites are right on the road.  The campground is nice but the sites are sort of close to each other and being that it is on the beach in the open.  By the Nature Center there is a large pavilion where we ate our lunch that we purchased at Warehouse.  The cinnamon bun was amazing, which I of course shared with Mike (there was no way I could have eaten it by myself anyways).  Sitting under the pavilion was very pleasant.  The temperature was about 20 degrees cooler.  There is a huge laundry room and a campstore, with basic stuff and campground gifts.  We went to the Nature Center  which was cool it had the basic animals like snakes, turtles and some birds.  There is also a huge pool, which probably has a separate charge for, we didn’t check it out because we wanted to see the beach.  It was super hot so we opted to drive over instead of taking the long hike over.  When we arrived there were big heads to pay for parking.  There was a solar equipped building at the top of the parking lot and it had also another huge pavilion.  There were beautiful boardwalks to take us to the beach.  Which was very beautiful with the white sand.  We hung up out for a bit, waded in the water and headed back to the truck.  We decided to go check out the pier while we were there. The pier is the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico.  Parking was free but when we got out to the pier there was a fee to head to the end.  We saw enough and it wasn’t close to sunset so we figured why pay  and we headed back to our campground.  We may come back there someday to camp but only if we plan on hanging out there for most of the time.

There are some trips that are centered around the campground but this was not one of them. The wind was picking up again and the rain had started by the time we got home.  We put the ac on and it worked flawlessly (maybe turning the temp up a little bit may have helped-still not sure).  We cooked dinner of tacos and thought we might head into Fairhope to go to the brewery.  Lucky for us we were finally able to get Google Maps to work and it said it was closed, so with nothing really to do we stayed at home.  This would have been a good evening to sit outside and enjoy the campground had it not been for the rain.

Saturday morning, we woke up to a nice cool camper, but to be on the safe side we turned the ac off prior to leaving.  Today was the big day, the reveal of the Argasy and the reason for our trip to begin with.  We headed down to Fairhope for Warehouse Donuts, this should not surprise anyone, and had a delicious breakfast of biscuits, I had chicken and Mike had some meat and eggs.  We then went to Fairhope Brewery where the morning program of the reveal was.  After meeting some very nice folks and hearing the presentations we headed to Big Daddy’s where the reveal was actually going to be. We are all at different stages of our journeys, but we are all heading in the same direction.  We had lunch and mingled, had a presentation from Dennis the CEO of  Battleborn Batteries and if were weren’t before we are now convinced lithium is the way to go, so before hitting the road we will be getting a couple if not four Battleborn lithium batteries.  After talking to people Mike wanted to upgrade our suspension components on the trailer (Moryde).  That is exactly what he is doing now as I write this.  Then we got the reveal we all got to go in and check out the Argosy. It is so beautiful and they did an amazing job. It is not something I would want to undertake ever.  After the reveal we had a little over an hour to kill before the live music back at the brewery.  A few of us headed to the Fairhope History Museum, oh wait this could be considered a third brown sign, so there were three brown signs afterall.

Fairhope History Museum is a free museum that explains the history of Fairhope and how it is the oldest single tax colony in the US.  What is the Fairhope single tax? It refers to an economic principle where the government taxes only land (rent), a single tax, no taxes on one’s labor/wages or capital.  The land was/is owned by a corporation and leased out  and a single tax was/is paid a/k/a rent.  Leases are for 99 years which is as secure as a deed for the lessee.  Major funding of the library, Museum, hospital, college  and other places are examples of the building projects provided because of the single tax, which while modified has survived.  The museum was interesting, it used to be the fire department, mayor’s office and the police department with it’s two cell jail.

After the museum we walked around Fairhope for a bit.  Fairhope is a quint southern town.  If we had time we would have walked to the pier but we will have to save that for the next time.  After a small tour  we headed back  to the brewery to listen to the band, have some good beer and just enjoy getting to know everyone else that was there for the reveal.  After the band was done playing they mingled with us and we ordered food from the food truck and were eating together. We hung out, got to know each other, exchanged numbers and are hopeful that we will see each other down the road again sometime soon. I looked around the table and brought it to Kyle and Olivia’s attention, that life long friends were made here today all because of YouTube.

It was a great long weekend and we hated to head back east but that is what we did on Sunday morning.  Soon our adventure won’t have to end with Monday morning’s alarm clock it will be the beginning, until then….

Hope to see you down the road sometime,  thanks for reading,

Hope

 

 

Featured

FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGNS…..#2 CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY

As promised here is number 2 of the following the brown sign….

Following another brown sign on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019 was my Mother’s Day gift to me from my loving Husband and to my  bestest Mom, who is always up for an adventure.  This has been a place I have wanted to see ever since my old boss (circa 1999) told me all about it, yes finally after 20 years I finally got here.  They have events all year long, however, summer is upon us so the events will be slowing down until fall I imagine, or our perceived fall in Florida, even though it will be as hot as it was on Mother’s Day.  W.e will look at the calendar though and keep up with what is going on because they have things like night hikes, a night hike on the swamp will be amazing.

Corkscrew Swamp is a series of boardwalks located in the western part of the Everglades, even though we saw some hikes that are lead through the actual swamp, I don’t think I want to do that.  Corkscrew was established to protect the largest remaining stand of ancient bald cypress that are left in North America. During the 40’s and 50’s the cypress forests in Florida were being leveled for their timber, the National Audubon had protected the birds within Corkscrew back in 1912 and at that time realized that the forest must be saved.  In 1955 the first boardwalk  was constructed thanks to the National Audubon Society, who had accepted responsibility to manage the area.  When the area was acquired in 1954 it was impossible to access.  Today, visitors can enjoy the natural systems of the real Florida.

The location of this beautiful oasis is 375  Sanctuary Road, Naples Florida, their phone number is 239/348-9151.  The cost is adults ($14.00) (so worth it) children/student (6-18) $4.00 and children under 6 free, discounts for National Audubon Society members ($10.00) and Full-time college students ($6.00-must have id). The hours are 7 am to 5:30 p.m. every day,  the last admission to the boardwalk is one hour before closing time (4:30 p.m.).  We were warned about black/deer fly’s this time of year, we however did not encounter any or should I say they did not encounter us.

We arrived at 10:30 ish and went to the visitor’s center, which houses a gift shop, a cafeteria type restaurant, and a exhibits as well as movie.  As we were there to hit the trails/boardwalk we decided that we would do all of that when we returned.  The boardwalk is 2.25 mileish along the swamp.  It is so green and lush and most thankfully were tree covered and shady.  The boardwalk starts out on the prairie but as soon as we got across the prairie, the big, beautiful trees take over and it becomes a shady hike, still hot but at least it is shady.     Besides the old trees and plants the wildlife was amazing.  We saw  barred owls, (2), an otter (which sadly he was too quick to get a pic), wood stock (a young one), anhingas, lizards (bright green anole) a skink (too fast to get a good pic), assuming it is pig frog and a mamma gator and her 12 babies.  What I was happy I did not see was a pygmy rattlesnake.  The flowers were plentiful.  After the walk we headed back to the visitor’s center where we sat and watched the informative film and cooled down.  We had a great time and were told by my mommy that it was one of the best Mother’s Day she has had.

Bottomline, we will be back and we will be on the lookout for a special program like a night hike. I urge all visitor’s to Florida to come and see the real Florida and this is a great way to do it.

Hike on…. Hope

Featured

Cary State Forest, Florida CAMPGROUND REVIEW

THE WHO:, Mike, me, Eris the lowrider camping hound, Nick, Jodie, Annette, Nora, Elsa and Sam, on two sites and the dogs outnumbered the humans as they usually do.

THE WHERE: Cary State Forest, Florida

THE WHEN: February 22-25, 2019

THE LOWDOWN: There are only 7 sites in this campground in this huge 13,385 acre forest, it is located in northeast Florida, near Jacksonville, there is hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.

THE CAMPGROUND: With only 7 sites in this huge forest there is plenty of room on and between the sites. Of the 7 sites, 6 have electric and water and one is primitive. Of the 6 that have electric and water only 5 of them can be reserved, leaving one as a walk-up/drive-up site.

When I say the sites are large, I mean super large. The each have concrete slab, picnic table, firepit. We had site #2 and Annette had site #3.

We went hiking, while the dogs were allowed on the trail, causing them (especially Eris the lowrider camping hound) to need baths when we returned. To say it was muddy in spots is an understatement.

There is a very nice bathhouse with two showers and a dump station conveniently located (not that we used it because we were in our tiny camper) at the beginning or end of the loop whichever way you look at it.

THE REASON TO GO: The peace and quiet that the woods have to offer is abundant here, even though there is an occasional train. While sitting at my campsite you can barely see Annette’s camper from here because of the distance. There are tall pines and palmetto scrub. The birds were singing and the smells of the pine forest cannot be beat. The hiking is plentiful and pretty, with boardwalks and some areas that have no boardwalks, hence the dogs getting dirty.

PART II -THE UPDATES TO THE INSIDE OUR FUTURE HOME

Recap we purchased our 2019 Viking at the Tampa Fall RV show in November 2018 on a very hot fall day. Since that purchase we have done upgrade after upgrade.  Part I of this blog talks all about the outside, Part II will cover all of the inside.

Let me start at the door, with the door, besides the electric door lock, we changed out the window, we went from a smoked glass to one with a blind built into, makes it extra dark to sleep and lighter during the day. We also added a screen door handle which makes it easier to close the door.  We added flash light holders and of course command hooks for everything from the leash to keys.

We disliked our plastic faucet(s), we changed them to nice faucets with a nice spray  nostle.  We added a backsplash behind the stove and along the wall.  As with most camper counters, space is a premium and everything you put out when larked has to go away, we needed someplace to store our kitchen utensils, therefore, Mike cut a hole in the counter and we dropped  a metal utensil holder in the counter -left over from my coffee cart days, (I am not sure if I mentioned it before but I have an amazing husband who can come up with a solution for anything and he can do anything as well) and we never have to worry about them going anywhere while traveling.

This model has a tall cabinet under the kitchen counter which is perfect for the trash can, he added dividers to hold the trash bags, aluminum foil and Ziplock bags.

Moving to under the dinette, we have a dinette with two benches, under the one is empty for storage, I have taken that over for my Stampin Up supplies and any other crafty items I may have, hoping it is enough room but may need a little more, but we will see, however the other bench was screwed shut.  Mike unscrewed it and saw that 1/3 of it is used to house the hot water heater and heater duct and the rest is empty so he cut the piece that screwed down and built a barrier around the duct and wala we have more storage.

As most owners of camper’s know the campers come with these awful lights that can cause a sunburn, well we (again when I say we, I really mean Mike) added two reading lights and a low wattage light over the dinette. He also reglued and screwed the back of the dinette becasue the factory glue didn’t keep it together driving down the road.

We picked out fabric and changed the valences to make it more ours.

If you read Part I you may remember the comfy couch, well the only thing that’s under there is the powercord which is accessable to the outside.  The couch lays down to make a bed as does the table, but like my Mom said, it may seat 6 but sleeps two, even though when we hit the road we will allow people who may visit us stay in with us. Anyway, under the couch besides the powercord is a 12 volt convereter and fuse panel.  Miked moved the couch and added a 400 watt invertor so we can run small 110 chargers, like our laptop while boondocking.  After taking the couch out he added storage and an access panel to the front of it and now we have storage for our future Battle Born lithium batteries. He also added another reading light over the couch, for that occassional time that Eris will share the couch with us.  Under the refrigerator there was a little storage area of about 3 inches deep, seriously it was only 3 inches but it held our collapsable broom and nothing else, Mike opened that up and now we can fit a ton of stuff under there.  Speaking about the refrigerator we added a temperture monitor for both the frig and freezer.  Of course we added a magnet board and white board to make it more homey.

Our bathroom sits across from the galley, which we have made a few changes to that as well.  One of the first things we did, was add a wall protector, to make sure the door knob doesn’t go through the wall when opening it.  Inside we added a backsplash, and of course more command hooks for the towels. We changed out the factory fan/vent for a Fantastic Fan and a rain cover over the top of it.  We changed out the showerhead to an Oxygenics. We put stainglass film on the domed ceiling in the shower, changed the shower rod to an expanding type which give us more room in the shower when using it or more in the bathroom when not using it.  OMG what are these people thinking when they install these faucets, one cannot get their hands under the faucet without touching the back of the sink and thereby splashing water everywhere, therefore needless to say we changed the faucet to not only one that is nicer but to one that is functional.

On the wall that backups to the bathroom and faces our bed we added a shelf to add some more personal items and what nots.  Mike also added lights to each side of the bed and a little shelf for me and he also added USB charges on boths sides of the bed.

We will have more to upgrade such as shelves in the closets, organizer sections under the bed, hang our family photos, but all things that can done slowly but for now we have done enough, it’s time to go camping.

Until next time….

Hope

GETTING READY TO HIT THE ROAD AND THE PROGRESS/UPGRADES TO OUR FUTURE HOME

We purchased our 2019 Viking at the Tampa Fall RV Show. Fall in Florida is a day  sometime in November or December, if we are lucky.  This wasn’t the day, it was as a hot and humid in the middle of November, it felt like the middle of July rather than the middle of November.  The fact about the weather will make sense shortly.  We have been looking at RVs for a while at this point. We had it in our heads what we wanted and what our needs would be.  Here’s a short list, a walk around queen bed, dry bath, full refrigerator, double axle, double propane, double battery (or the ability to add one), light weight, a smallish one like 19 foot, with no slides. We thought we had found what we wanted in a Sonic but we figured we would check out the show and look around and let’s face it RV shows are fun. We hunted the show going into a lot of campers that may fit our needs.  Remember I said it was hot, we went into a 21 foot Viking, (21RD) bigger than what we were looking at and heavier (not much) but the ac was cranking and it had a comfy couch. When I sat on this comfy couch I heard my Mom’s advise “get a couch” then I  noticed it not only had the comfy couch it had a dinette and the big windows and I envisioned how nice the views would be from them in the wild. Mike and I took a better look at the Viking 21RD, after seeing all we could see we headed to get a cold drink and crappy fairground food and showed our friends this camper we were smitten about.  At that point of the day we were only halfway around the show and there were many more campers to see that might fit our build and we wouldn’t want to miss any of them. After looking at all the rest of them we headed back to General RV and did a thorough walk-thru our camper. The Forest River rep was there so we could get all of our burning questions answered.  After seeing all the other campers and asking all of the questions and taking pictures we asked ourselves what were we waiting for? And bought her. Well not exactly her, as she was sold so we had to get one that no one had been in before, oh darn. 

The whole buying experience at General RV was amazing, from filling out the finance papers  at the fairgrounds to picking it up on the following Friday.  The first real upgrade was our hitch, which our salesperson insisted we have, the E2, totally amazing. We have an old Silverado, which was not ready to tow our new camper so our friend had to pull her home.  We really did by the cart before the horse.  After getting the camper home that is when the big upgrades started, or at least completed a list of what we wanted and needed.  

That’s the story of our camper purchase, now onto the upgrades, which is a ton and still ongoing.  Besides the basic necessities (i.e. Sewer hose, water hose, leveling blocks etc.,) we purchased an additional battery, electric jack, xchocks, Mike put on tie outs for the dog leads. These are used to tie Eris the low rider camping hound’s leash and she can have guests. 

Nick, Mom and Pam ordered us tank covers as a housewarming gift and Nick also got us a sewer hose.  Uncle Bill and Teddy gave us an Amazon gift card for a backup camera.  

We added a  tire pressure monitoring system, it’s nice to know what the tires are doing.  We also added an upgrade to the suspension system.  Moryde equalizer and heavy duty shackles with wet bolts.  What a difference that makes while towing.  The biggest thing we noticed was when we move down the road most of our stuff stays put, even if we forget to dump the dog’s water bowl.  We might have done that and not one drop spilled.  

We see ourselves doing some boondocking in the future maybe even more than some, anyways in order to do that we need to generate power, and while we aren’t strangers to generating  power and have experience with a generator and it will work in a pinch, we like the idea of generating clean, quiet energy. That comes via solar panels and batteries, charge controller and inverter.  We currently have 5-100 watt panels on the roof and Renogy Rover 40 charge controller.  These hopefully will keep our batteries charged and keep us in electric. Eventually we will upgrade to 4 Battle Born Litheum batteries but for know we will just use what we have. We (and when I say we, I mean Mike) changed out the cheap factory fan for a Fantastic Fan, and put a rain shield on it. 

One of our favorite things we did was change the door lock to keyless entry. We got ours from RV Lock. We will get the basement locks from them as well. It came with a remote and we honestly thought why would we need that. But we keep it in the truck and one day when we pulled up to the campsite it was pouring so we just unlocked it from the dryness of the truck and ran for it and hopped into the camper super quickly.

I think that covers the outside of the rig except for the most important piece of equipment, without having this we would be camping in our backyard, remember I said we literally bought the cart before the horse, well we needed a new tow vehicle. We fixed the old white Chevy up and it was great for around here except we have plans and they do not include staying here.  We got  a new to us a 4 wheel drive 4 door Chevy with a nice backseat for the dog. (See my blog about the Carvana Experience). We did a few upgrades to the truck as well.  We added airbags to stop any potential body roll, sagging, and drooping (I wish I could get that for my actual body), anyway it helps keep the truck even while towing it, and makes for a smoother ride.

I think that about covers the outside. Stay tuned for part two to  see what we have done to the inside.